With roles for Black actresses so few and far between, there are even less of a variety of parts available for dark skinned actresses. That’s something that many stars like Jurnee Smollett-Bell have discussed and 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg has acknowledged that as well.
That’s why instead of taking on a role in the Marvel-Disney blockbuster film “Black Panther,” she walked away.
“One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from “Black Panther,” she admitted to the CBC at the TIFF Next Wave Festival Thursday, Feb. 15. “I got really, really close and they were like, ‘Do you want to continue fighting for this?’ And I was like, ‘This isn’t right.’
“These are all dark skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a bi-racial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie,” she added.
Indeed, the film features actors with dark-skin speaking one of South Africa’s 11 official languages of isiXhosa. And there’s also an emphasis on the women sporting their natural hair, which Stenberg would have no problem getting into if she had taken on the role. She regularly puts her natural curls on display on and off-screen.
Even still, she knew taking a part in “Black Panther” would mean taking an opportunity away from her dark-skinned peers. And that’s something she didn’t want to do.
“That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets,” she said. “I recognize 100 percent that there are spaces that I should not take up and when I do take up space it’s because I’ve thought really, really critically about it and I’ve consulted people I really trust and it feels right.”
Yet as someone who sees herself as an infiltrator in the business since she doesn’t typically line up with popular culture, she still finds ways to make an impact on the Black community, much like “Black Panther” has done.
“Because I’m in that position, I feel like it’s almost a responsibility of mine to utilize that in a way,” she said. “When presented with the opportunity of doing something that is more mainstream but with a Black girl and other Black girls get to see that …it feels to me like if I can take those opportunities then take them because of the potential doors that it can open for a lot of young actors of color.”